America faces serious economic and fiscal challenges. This reality poses both difficult choices and renewed opportunities for the future of the federal transportation program. Members of the Bipartisan Policy Center’s National Transportation Policy Project (NTPP), acknowledged these current opportunities and challenges while charting the future direction of the project at their quarterly meeting Wednesday.
As has been acknowledged recently by two national commissions (the BPC’s Debt Reduction Task Force and President Obama’s National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform) the nation faces an unsustainable debt. Underinvestment in the nation’s transportation infrastructure has contributed to that debt, in part by slowing national economic growth and competitiveness. While raising additional revenues for transportation investment at the national level is unlikely in the near term, job creation AND reduced spending are likely to dominate the agenda of the 112th Congress. This puts NTPP recommendations, which focus on wise investment to push economic growth regardless of the amount of money being spent, at the forefront of the Congressional debate.
Members of NTPP, as articulated at their member meeting, have a continued interest in advancing the recommendations contained in the June 2009 Performance Driven report. The framework for surface transportation legislation outlined in that report remains relevant and applicable to the current fiscal and political realities. NTPP will continue to advocate for a federal surface transportation program that incorporates national goals, outcomes, performance measurement, and increased accountability.
NTPP will move forward with a robust research agenda in 2011. They plan to update the 2009 Performance Driven report with research that speaks directly to the next surface transportation bill. Recommendations from this research will attempt to determine how federal funds can be targeted to the most essential and beneficial elements of a redefined national transportation system. NTPP’s future work will continue to emphasize the importance of a performance driven framework, including the institution of performance measurement across federal transportation programs. Enhancing the capacity of state and local agencies to reform their planning processes and collect relevant data to demonstrate progress toward national goals will also be an essential element of NTPP’s work. Finally, national fiscal challenges and revenue shortfalls will lead NTPP to join the debate about ways in which the federal transportation program can be more sustainably funded in the future.
For more information on NTPP’s ongoing research and work visit our webpage here.